Ownership of Results and IP

You would expect a Research Contract to be clear about who owns the relevant Background IP, Sideground IP and Foreground IP. Research Contracts generally say that each participant owns its own Background IP and Sideground IP. Ownership of the Foreground IP will vary from contract to contract. In the case of contract research, for instance, it is usually the funder who will own the Foreground IP. In other cases participants frequently retain ownership of the Foreground IP which they create.

Where research is funded by UK Government funded bodies the usual approach is that the Foreground IP should be owned by the research provider. Some instances where this may not be appropriate are:

  • National Security – the IP’s sensitivity means it needs to be owned by Government and kept under tight control
  • Dissemination of Information – IP ownership is necessary to ensure complete disclosure, where the work has particular public implications e.g. public health
  • Aggregation of Work – it makes sense to draw IP created by the work of various parties together for better commercialisation
  • Standards or Regulatory Work – funded work is supporting standards or regulatory responsibilities which should not be the monopoly of one supplier
  • Research Provider Resources – the research provider has insufficient resources to commercialise effectively

In the context of collaborative Research Contracts, where the participants are working together on the research, it may be that some IP is actually created jointly. This truly has to be joint creation for it to be jointly owned IP.